Dade City residents will not see an increase in their property tax rate for the coming year.
Dade City Commissioners unanimously voted 5-0 on July 23 to set the tentative millage rate at 7.14 mills — the same rate as last year.
Under state law, once a tentative millage rate has been set, the city cannot raise it before the start of the fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. The commission does, however, have the option to reduce the rate before then.
At the tax rate of 7.14 mills, ad valorem tax revenues in the city’s general fund are anticipated to decrease by $40,850 for the 2019-2020 fiscal year, according to Dade City Manager Leslie Porter.
Because of that, Porter recommended the commission choose a higher tentative tax rate “to allow us the flexibility as we see what comes into the budget.”
The recommendation included the rollback rate of 7.3297, which Porter said would result in a $50,000 swing and thus increase ad valorem revenues in the general fund by about $10,000 compared to 7.14 mills.
The rollback rate is the millage rate that would collect an equivalent level of ad valorem taxes in the next fiscal year as in the current fiscal year.
Traditionally, the commission has voted to use the rollback rate as the proposed millage, while instructing city staff to set a lower rate for the fiscal year.
However, that was a non-starter for commissioners, who pointed out residents have already seen increases in water and sewer rates, along with a stormwater fee assessment.
“I think we just need to work within the budget and make the cuts where we need and see how it rolls out,” Commissioner Jim Shive said. “I think residents in Dade City are paying more than enough in taxes. …I talk to constituents every day about taxes and a lot of them are very concerned with the amount of taxes we have to pay.”
Other commissioners concurred.
“I think we need to live within the means that we have,” Commissioner Nicole Deese Newlon said. “I don’t want to give us the opportunity to try to make 7.3297 (mills) work. I would rather stay within 7.14 (mills) and if things have to be cut to stay within 7.14 then they have to be cut, so I do not want to raise taxes.”
“We’re going to have to make it work,” added Mayor Camille Hernandez of setting the tentative 7.14 millage rate. “I think we’re all hearing every day from citizens and we’re just responding to what we are hearing out in the community.”
A budget workshop preceded the city commission meeting. Discussions focused on some reorganization, specifically creating a development services department and related additional staffing changes. Major general fund capital requests included several new vehicles (four police vehicles, shop truck, safety services truck, grapple truck), rehabbing the city’s old police department building, Hardy Trail improvements and Morningside Drive extension studies.
With some of those projects and initiatives on the docket, Commissioner Scott Black warned concessions may have to made with a 7.14 millage rate.
“We do need to keep in mind we do have some basic needs here in the city that need to be met,” Black said, noting the city’s millage rate hasn’t changed in “probably seven or eight years.”
“A lot of those things that we’re saying that we need to do, they’re going to have to be funded somehow.
“We’re not waving a wand with our budget. If we want certain things, there’s going to be some disappointment I think in some things we’re indicating that we would like to see happen,” Black said.
In other business, Dade City is still searching for a finance director since Leslie Porter was officially promoted to the role of city manager in May.
In addition to city manager duties, Porter is still serving as acting finance director until a full-time replacement is found.
She told commissioners the city may elect to use a temporary personnel agency to fill the vacancy and then re-advertise the job posting.
“We really have not been receiving a response to the ads, so we’ll keep moving forward,” she said.
Elsewhere, city officials have targeted a location for a bike-share hub/splash pad/pavilion recreational project that’s been in talks the past few years.
Porter said the property is centrally located in the downtown area, near The Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce on Eighth Street.
Porter said city officials plan to enter negotiations over the next month with the property and local business owner Otto Weitzenkorn.
The Pasco County Tourist Development allocated $250,000 for the recreational project.
Published July 31, 2019